CITIZEN KANE by Harlan Lebo


A Filmmaker's Journey
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Everything you wanted to know about one of the greatest films of all time—and then some.

Orson Welles (1915-1985) could read when he was 2 and discuss politics at 3, and he wrote his first play at 9—or maybe that’s just a myth he started. But it’s widely accepted that the first film Welles co-wrote, directed, produced, and starred in is one of the truly great films. Lebo (The Godfather Legacy, 19997, etc.) agrees, and he makes a convincing case with this fascinating, in-depth story of the film’s making. Not only does he describe how the film was made, from beginning to end and afterward, but he also includes any film lover’s candy: cast and production credits, a conversation with Bernard Herrmann, who did the score, a detailed scene-by-scene guide (with running times), the film’s budget (actor Everett Sloane, who played Mr. Bernstein, received a $2,400 payment to shave his head), and more. After successes in radio and drama, the 25-year-old wunderkind was able to negotiate a contract with RKO to make two movies with the “most liberal creative terms ever granted to a director working within the confines of the traditional studio system.” Lebo skillfully sorts through the controversy of who exactly wrote the Kane screenplay. Herman J. Mankiewicz and John Houseman began work on a screenplay loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. There were multiple drafts, with Welles editing each along the way. Commenting on the unconventional and difficult filming techniques used, cinematographer Gregg Toland said it “had to be done!” When film editor Robert Wise reviewed daily rushes, he felt they were on to “something very special.” Extensive quotes from many participants add a real immediacy to the story, and Lebo splendidly chronicles all the drama, infighting, ups and downs, excitement, and genius that went into creating Welles’ masterpiece.

Published to coincide with the film’s 75th anniversary, this book is a gold mine for fans.

Pub Date: April 26th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-07753-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2016


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